Spoilers: All, basically.
Summary: Four ways Horatio won't remember Archie, and one way he will.
When Horatio is next in Kingston, it will still smell like death, but he won’t think of Archie’s body, or how beads of sweat rolled down his tanned cheeks like tears after he died. Or how Archie’s fingers – usually twisting and kneading the fabric of his bed sheets as he spoke – lay still and relaxed against the old, cheap linens.
He won’t think of what Archie looked like as he died – the queer smile, and his white teeth, or the way his eyes squeezed shut, lashes dark from perspiration. Or the way his hair already looked brittle and dull before his chest moved up and down for the last time.
Horatio won’t remember the wet, rattling sound of Archie’s breathing as he walks up the steps to the Admiralty, or greenish pallor that had begun to spread itself across Archie’s shoulders the night before he died. He will not let himself remember how the room smelled like decay, long before Archie stood up in court, or the thick, dense heat of the sick room.
Archie deserves better.
When Horatio is married, the space between his hand and his wife’s sleeping body will be filled with sheets, creased and folded into peaks, waves. The space between them will be a gulf that he cannot navigate, not in the dark of their still room, or in the light of day as she reaches for him, as she tries to pull him closer. He will feel alone beside her, more alone beside her than he has ever felt before in his life.
And he will not think of Archie, standing so close to him, Archie’s breath puffing against his ear as he taught Horatio how to mend his torn shirts. He will not think of Archie’s fine, broad hands holding his own, Archie’s fingers against his as Archie wound knot after knot.
He will not think of Archie’s hair, brushing against his cheek as Archie reached past him. Horatio will not think of the spicy, dizzying scent of Archie.
He will not think of Archie’s eyes, so blue in a pool of lamplight as he swayed in his hammock, hands moving fast beneath the brown blanket. He will not think of the way Archie bit his lower lip, how his eyes sought out Horatio’s in the dark, how he watched Horatio’s face until he threw his head back and came. He will not think of the sounds Archie made, the half-groans and stifled gasps. He will not dare to remind himself that once or twice, Archie called his name.
Horatio will most certainly not let himself remember that always, always after Archie rolled over, and went to sleep, he would watch the line of Archie’s back and take himself in hand and, in ruthless silence, satisfy his own lust.
It will not be proper.
When midshipman Hammond freezes in battle, Horatio will not think of the strangeness of Archie’s spells on the Justinian. Horatio will not remember how Archie would slip deep, deep behind his eyes – so deep inside himself that there would be no hint, no sign of Archie Kennedy in his face.
He will not think of bruises the shape of Jack Simpson’s hands all over Archie’s back. He will not remember how Archie would hold himself after a beating, the stiff set of his gait. He will not remember the fear in Archie’s eyes, in his voice. He will not remember the reasons Archie had to be so afraid, because he will not have the time for rage.
And Hammond is nothing like Archie. Nothing at all.
When Horatio sits in his cabin, staring down at his log book and the black ink spattered across it and the room is quiet, so quiet save for the creaking of boards, he will not remember the courtroom in Jamaica, or Archie’s voice as he confessed, as he lied. He will not remember standing in the doorway and staring at Archie, who shook, and whose hands whitely gripped the bar before him.
He will not remember how Archie lifted his chin defiantly, or how clear his expression was. He will not think of the way Archie’s words seemed to bound and rebound through the small, dark room. He will not remember the careful, fragile grace of Archie’s movements as he gave what was left of his life for Horatio’s.
Horatio will not let himself dwell on the way Archie caught his gaze, and held it. How Archie’s lips turned up, how Archie *smiled* at him.
Archie’s courage will still be humbling, and Horatio will have work to do, to deserve it.
This is how Horatio will remember Archie:
It’s sunny out, and wind whips bits of his hair out of the queue at his neck, reddish gold wisps that hang across Archie’s brow. He is tan, and healthy, and his shirtsleeves are rolled up to his elbows. The waves are chopping up, and Archie’s feet are planted firmly on the deck as the boat jerks and tosses over the water.
He’s holding the spyglass in his hand, and he turns to Horatio, smiling. His eyes sparkle, and he puts a hand on Horatio’s shoulder. It’s warm through Horatio’s shirt.
“Come,” Archie says, holding the spyglass out, lips twitching enough to turn his smile mischievous. “Have a look.”
Horatio won’t know whether or not this has happened. He won’t know what Archie was watching – if it was just the horizon, the sky and the water coming together, or something else. He won’t know if he saw it as well, but this image – Archie, happy and golden and beside him – will be the first thing he thinks of every morning, and what lulls him into sleep. It will be his touchstone.
Archie always was.